Taiwan travel guide
Sitting pretty as one of Asia’s best-kept travel secrets, the spicy, scenic island of Taiwan makes a habit of smashing visitor preconceptions.
Outsiders tend to see this country as notable only for its technological prowess – an image reinforced by the global prominence of ‘Made in Taiwan’ stickers – but in reality this is a destination that serves up awe-inspiring panoramas, a rainbow of different cultures and a startlingly rich history.
Alongside night markets, cycle trails and hot springs, there are gleaming skyscrapers, hulking mountains and sparkling lakes. When you factor in the manageable size of the island, which is less than half the size of Scotland, the appeal becomes even more significant.
Taiwan is one of the few places on Earth where ancient religious and cultural practices still thrive in an overwhelmingly modernist landscape. This juxtaposition is expressed most clearly in Taipei, where futuristic marvels like Taipei 101 – one of the tallest buildings in the world – share the city with incense-fogged temples and indigenous communities.
This mix of different influences is wonderfully showcased by the island’s cuisine – a lip-smacking blend of Chinese, Japanese and aboriginal fare.
Like many aspects of life in Taiwan, its diverse cuisine makes sense when you look at the island’s history. Following five decades of Japanese rule, in 1949 a liberated Taiwan became a refuge for the Chinese Nationalist Party and their supporters, who fled here during the Chinese Civil War. To this day, Taiwan remains a product of this period – a maverick sovereign state still viewed with uneasiness by Beijing.
History buff or not, there’s much to enjoy in Taiwan. Away from the sleek towers of the cities, it’s the valleys, lakes and gorges of the countryside that tend to leave the greatest impression. The fact that comparatively few tourists make it here is more to do with a lack of awareness than a lack of things to do – hikers, cyclists, divers, surfers, pilgrims and gourmands will all find a little slice of heaven in this corner of Asia.
36,188 sq km (13,972 sq miles).
23,395,600 (UN estimate 2016).
647 per sq km.
President Tsai Ing-wen since 2016.
Premier Lai Ching-te since 2017.
Last updated: 20 February 2018
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
On 6th February 2018 a 6.4 magnitude Earthquake struck near to the city of Hualien in eastern Taiwan. You should monitor alerts issued by the Central Weather Bureau and follow the advice of the local authorities.
There have been a number of smaller tremors since the earthquake struck. These could continue in the coming days and weeks.
Local authorities are reporting a small number of fatalities and a larger number of injured people. A small number of buildings have collapsed, with others suffering subsidence and damage.
Rail links to Hualien are reported to be working.
If you are a British national in Hualien who requires assistance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) have set up a 24 hour English language emergency hotline to assist foreigners affected by the earthquake. This can be contacted on +886 (0) 800 085 095.
You can also contact the British Office Taipei on: +886 2 8758 2088.
There has been a significant increase in cases of dengue fever.
The UK does not recognise Taiwan as a state and has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, so limited consular services are available to British nationals.
Around 38,000 British nationals visit Taiwan every year. Most visits are trouble-free. Nevertheless, you should maintain the same level of vigilance as you would at home, and take sensible precautions.
Crime levels are low, but small-scale petty crime does exist. You should maintain at least the same level of vigilance as you would at home, and take sensible precautions.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Taiwan, attacks can’t be ruled out.
You can contact the emergency services by calling 110 (police) or 119 (ambulance and fire).
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Advance fee frauds
Individuals and companies in the UK (and elsewhere) often receive letters, faxes and e-mails, offering them large sums of money provided they send various ‘advance fees’ to Taiwanese bank accounts. Fraudsters obtain contact details from telephone or commercial directories, so recipients are not being specifically targeted.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) investigates advance fee frauds in the UK. Do not reply to these types of communication. The NCA website contains more information on this type of fraud.
There is a risk of road blockages and landslides following typhoons, especially in central and southern Taiwan. You should check the Central Weather Bureau website and the Directorate General of Highways website before travelling.
To drive in Taiwan you need an International Driving Permit (IDP). Once in Taiwan, you will need to take your passport, IDP and a passport photograph to the nearest Vehicle Registration Department and apply for a driver’s licence visa, which will then be secured in your IDP.
The alcohol limit for drivers in Taiwan is lower than in the UK. The current legal limit is 0.15 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath or 0.03% blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Driving while over the limit can result in heavy fines and imprisonment. Passengers may also be fined.
Be alert crossing roads, even on protected crossings.
Avoid large-scale political gatherings.
The UK does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The British Assistance and Services Section of the British Office in Taipei can provide certain limited consular assistance. In cases of genuine emergency, the British Office may be able to issue you with an emergency travel document.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Taiwan, attacks can’t be ruled out. You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
If you are found guilty of smuggling, trafficking, possession or use of illegal narcotics you can expect to receive a severe jail sentence or, in some cases, the death penalty.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
You may spend up to 90 days in Taiwan without a visa. You can then extend this by a further 90 days once you have entered Taiwan. If you plan to stay in Taiwan for longer than 180 days you must have a visa before you arrive.
Specific rules exist for naturalised British Citizens born in the People’s Republic of China and holders of British National (Overseas) passports wishing to enter under the visa waiver scheme.
For further information on entry requirements, contact the Taipei Representative Office in London, 50 Grosvenor Gardens, London, SW1W 0EB, telephone: 020 7881 2650 or in Edinburgh, 1 Melville Street, Edinburgh EH3 7PE, telephone: 01312 206886.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Taiwan.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Taiwan. If you’re entering Taiwan using an Emergency Travel Document (ETD), you must apply for a visit visa before travelling (unless you’re travelling from mainland China, in which case you can get a visa on arrival).
When bringing medications into Taiwan, you should bring a prescription from a hospital, clinic or doctor stating that the medicines are for the use of the individual. The amount brought in must be consistent with the amount on the prescription.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Taiwan has adequate health and dental facilities to handle routine, emergency and outpatient treatment. Some have English-speaking staff. Hospitals operate on a ’pay as you use’ basis. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
There has been a significant increase in cases of dengue fever. Cases are usually concentrated in the south of Taiwan (including the cities of Kaohsiung and Tainan) and are highest during the summer months. See the Taiwan Centre for Disease Control website for more information. You should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 119 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment. Unlike the UK, it is not normal practice for a paramedic to accompany an ambulance.
The tropical cyclone (typhoon) season in Taiwan normally runs from May to November, sometimes resulting in local flooding and landslides.
Listen to Typhoon Alerts on ICRT, BCC and PRS radio stations, or alternatively monitor the following websites:
See our tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you are caught up in a storm.
Earthquakes do occur in Taiwan. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
Western Union, Moneygram and Travellers Express have offices in Taipei, but operating hours are restricted. It is not possible to exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes. Bank transfers can be slow. Some branches of The Bank of Taiwan and HSBC will accept British credit cards, but you will incur handling charges. ATMs are plentiful but not all accept British bankcards (most ATMs in 7-11 convenience stores accept international cards). Designated banks will accept American Express, Citibank or Thomas Cook travellers’ cheques but you should be prepared to produce your purchase certificate or receipt as well as your passport when cashing them. If in doubt, check whether your travellers’ cheques will be accepted in Taiwan before you travel.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.